Take-home naloxone: How to ensure you save a life

What you need to know when supplying take-home naloxone.

The national Take Home Naloxone (THN) program enables access to naloxone directly from a community pharmacy at no cost and without a prescription to anyone who is at risk of an opioid overdose or adverse reaction, and to their carers, friends and family members.1 In its pilot phase ‘three lives were saved each day’, and it is expected that an even greater impact will be seen with the national rollout.2

What should you do to ensure naloxone is supplied and used appropriately?

Have a conversation

Identify and initiate a conversation with patients who are at high risk of opioid overdose.2 The risks associated with opioid medicines should be discussed, and information provided about the role of naloxone in emergency treatment of known or suspected opioid overdose or an adverse reaction. Patients who are at high risk should be encouraged to keep an emergency supply of naloxone on hand, where appropriate.2

Counsel and demonstrate

Naloxone for opioid overdose is available in three forms.2 For this reason it is vital that correct administration technique is demonstrated for the dosage form supplied to the patient and/or the third party.2 Inform the patient that it is likely the third party will administer the naloxone, as the patient will probably be too unwell to self-administer.2

An opioid overdose response plan should be provided alongside naloxone supply, and it should be established that the patient and/or third party understands the plan and how to administer naloxone.2

Lack of information is no reason to withhold supply

Every effort should be made to gather sufficient information to assess the safety and appropriateness of naloxone for the patient.2 However, pharmacists should be aware that barriers to open communication can exist with some atrisk patients (e.g. stigma associated with the use of illicit drugs). Supply of naloxone should not be denied on the basis of insufficient information, as naloxone can be lifesaving.2


1. Australian Government, Department of Health and Aged Care. 2022. About the Take Home Naloxone Program. At: www.health.gov.au/initiatives-andprograms/take-home-naloxone-program/about-thetake-home-naloxone-program

2. Pharmaceutical Society of Australia. “Naloxone program will save lives” – Pharmacists welcome rollout. 2022. At: www.psa.org.au/naloxone-programwill-save-lives-pharmacists-welcome-rollout/

Further information 

Australian Pharmaceutical Formulary non-prescription medicine guideline, Naloxone for Opioid Overdose, at: https://my.psa.org.au/s/article/Naloxone-for-opioid-overdose

AMBER DOMBERELLI BPharmaceutSc, MPharm, MMedRes, GradCertAppPharmPrac, JP, MPS is a pharmacist in PSA’s Policy team and a PhD candidate.